Refugee Youth, Unemployment and Extremism: Countering the Myth

Drew Mikhael and Julie Norman

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 57-58



Refugee youth unemployment has been linked to increased risk of extremism and/or exploitation because unemployed youth may be more likely to respond to financial incentives or be attracted by a sense of purpose or social identity. However, the authors’ research suggests that there is no direct causality between refugee youth unemployment and extremism—unemployment is one of many factors that can lead to extremism. Relative deprivation, social marginalization, and political exclusion also can push youth to explore other paths of inclusion or validation. Interventions that provide skills trainings for refugee youth to increase their employability can be misguided because: (a) in the absence of jobs, young people are more likely to become frustrated when their skills do not translate into meaningful employment; (b) programs that privilege refugees can increase tensions with host communities; and (c) on their own, these interventions do not address structural problems (e.g. corruption, patronage) that contribute to the lack of jobs. The most successful programs addressing youth susceptibility to extremism are “psychosocial interventions and the promotion of hope, and creating opportunities for socio-economic development and civic engagement.” The authors conclude that: (i) education and job training are not enough; (ii) employment-based interventions should couple job training with job creation; (iii) external interventions are insufficient; and (iv) there should be more support for local NGOs and social workers.